I trust this note finds you having enjoyed a renewing and reflective winter weekend. As promised, I am following up on my message sent yesterday to provide you more details on how we will move forward in the coming weeks in a manner that is focused on what is best for the health of our students, staff and community, and for the continuation of learning.
The situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus is rapidly evolving. Last week, we were aware of one confirmed coronavirus case in our state. Now, just three days later, there are 13 confirmed cases across both King and Snohomish counties, sadly including two deaths in King County.
This evening it has come to my attention that a Frank Love staff member, presenting with flu-like symptoms, is being tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus and has been directed to self-quarantine. Out of an abundance of caution, I have ordered Frank Love to be closed tomorrow, Monday, March 2 to allow our support services staff time to disinfect the entire school and hopefully, time for me to receive the results of the aforementioned test. As you know, we closed Bothell High School last week due to a possible exposure to the coronavirus. Closing Frank Love is the prudent thing to do when we are considering the health of our students and staff as well as our entire community.
Saturday, Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency and directed state agencies to use "all resources necessary" to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
As we look across the international, national, and local landscape, we are also planning for the continuation of student learning should we need to close our schools to address the spread of this virus. Currently, there are students and family members across our district who are concerned they have been exposed to the coronavirus at a community health facility. Others are experiencing flu-like symptoms after potential exposure to the virus. All of these individuals have been asked and/or have volunteered to self-quarantine. This scenario seems to be playing out in increasing numbers across our county, state and nation. The level of anxiety caused by this emergent situation is also problematic for the ability to focus on our work and studies.
We now know the virus is active in our community, and transmitted by people who are both symptomatic and asymptomatic, and being transmitted among those who have not traveled abroad. It seems reasonable that we act to minimize contact prior to further cases being identified. To that end, it is my intent to clarify our measured strategy for moving forward.
Last week OSPI State Superintendent Chris Reykdal recommended that districts engage in contingency planning for the possibility of extended school closure should the situation in our state dramatically change in the coming weeks.
This weekend I’ve worked with a large team of district leaders and educators to further develop contingency planning for what we can do to continue education here in the Northshore School District while minimizing the spread of illness. I believe that the thoughtful and prudent approach is to strategically plan our shift to the possibility of remote school learning with time for students, staff and families to plan for a successful remote learning implementation.
As I was reminded by a number of our community members - we have received nearly 1000 community responses since yesterday - we routinely close schools for either weather-related emergencies or other threats to our school communities. In this case, I believe the current situation with the rapid expansion of the current communicable disease creates similar challenges. We cannot control this virus, its spread, or its impact throughout the state or the country. What we can control is how we will continue to meet our responsibility to educate our students for the future. Below is our plan for the next couple of days, and I commit to providing regular updates as appropriate.
Northshore Learning Continues
Monday, March 2:
All schools in the Northshore School District will be in session with the exception of Frank Love Elementary School. Should families in any other district schools choose to keep their students home due to illness or out of concern around this emerging situation, this will be considered an excused absence and work will be able to be made up. At this time, teachers will connect with students to foreshadow the possibility of remote learning should it become necessary.
Tuesday, March 3:
All Northshore schools closed to students so we can provide training to staff to engage students in remote learning that may take place outside the four walls of their classrooms should this become necessary in the coming days. In addition, our support services staff will be coordinating a district-wide disinfection/deep cleaning of each school campus.
I understand that the remote learning approach may result in a hardship for any students who do not have computing devices or internet access at home. If you are in this situation, I am asking you to complete this form and we will arrange to loan your student a computing device and if necessary an accompanying internet hot spot.
I want to acknowledge that we are currently problem-solving a situation that is new to us here in Northshore and appreciate your patience as we work to best support and educate each student. We will continue to reevaluate the situation on a daily basis and plan for the coming days and weeks. The health and safety of our community is a shared responsibility and one that we take seriously. In the next day, we plan to share a simple web tool that will help each family understand how we are handling district-wide and school-by school issues as they relate to the coronavirus. This is a complex matrix with seemingly innumerable facets to track.
As always, I appreciate your patience in this unusual time and hope you will both share your thoughts and concerns with us as well as extend grace as we move forward.
Michelle Reid, Ed.D.